In "The Afterparty," a murder mystery unfolds following the untimely death of international pop sensation Xavier (Dave Franco) at a 15-year high school reunion. Each Hilmount High graduate — now suspect — recounts the events of the ill-fated evening through their own perspective or "mind movie," as Detective Danner (Tiffany Haddish, pitch perfect as the straight man-type investigator) says. So, along with guessing whodunit, viewers can play along to spot the cinematic references.
Nerdy-cute prime suspect Aniq (Sam Richardson), for one, recalls the events through mood-lit rom-com memories, complete with a "Four Weddings (or even "The Notebook")-esque rainfall. Meanwhile, former popular girl Chelsea (Ilana Glazer) gives a film noir-ish account through a gaslighter-horror milieu.
In a supporting role, the costumes by Trayce Gigi Field, play a nostalgic pop culture game of sorts, too.
"I pitched [creator/director Christopher Miller] an idea of each character having their own color palette, like the game of 'Clue,'" says the costume designer, known for her work on "Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar" and "Dead to Me."
Aniq's unrequited high school crush Zoe (Zoe Chao, "Love Life," "The High Note") stands out in red through a rose-print Topshop mini dress and cropped French Connection moto jacket (above) — "a fun 'girls night out' look and her coolest vibe," says Field. The school administrator, now single amidst a divorce from class of '06 meathead Brett (Ike Barinholtz), wants to make the most out of her big evening.
Aniq (above) exemplifies blue in a Good Man Brand short-sleeved, button-up shirt, which Field amped up with cool Nikes, bedazzled collar pins by JoJo & Lin and a Casio watch. Luckily, blue happens to be Richardson's favorite color, since the actors essentially wear the same outfits for the run of the series. "For five months!," exclaims Field.
However, costume citizen detectives will notice tiny but significant differences in the outfits, depending on whose "mind movie" is playing.
During Brett's testosterone-fueled "Fast & Furious" rendition of the evening's events (above) — including excessive mentions of "family" — he's wearing Ferragamo aviators that could have been plucked out of Dominic Toretto's glove compartment.
"If you look at the shoulders on his leather jacket, they're amped up a bit," says Field, with a mischievous giggle. "So it looks bigger and stronger." (His skewed memory would, of course, also give Zoe fishnets to wear her Jessica Simpson booties.)
Yasper (Ben "John Ralphio" Schwartz), former ska-band frontman (Ska-pe Diem forever!) and now audiovisual company entrepreneur, regales Danner with his musical version, featuring some legit bangers. He sings and dances through a series of rhythmic genres, with funky patterned lining and elbow-patches accentuating his green Elder Statesman zip-up cardigan (below).
"We wanted to keep it subtle enough, where it's still the same, but has a music video vibe," says Field, also pointing to his white sneakers morphed into color-blocked Pumas.
Although, even eagle-eyed viewers may not spot poor, sweet, soft-spoken and always-overlooked Walt (Jamie Demetriou, two above) — that's also because of his all-neutral, monochrome look consisting of an Everlane jacket, Uniqlo sweater and Theory shirt.
"His color is kind of non-existent, because he's kind of non-existent, right?" says Field. "So it's a taupe-y tan, and he disappears."
In the latest episode, Walt — who's not the pool guy or the butler — finally seizes the spotlight to share his observations of the deadly evening. If you rewatch previous episodes (which I highly recommend), he's always lurking in the background. You just never noticed.
Walt also discloses the mysterious events that unfolded during the senior year St. Patrick's Day party. That night's teenage misunderstandings and misbehavior laid the groundwork for resentments possibly leading to the death of Yasper's ex-Ska-pe Diem bandmate, Xavier, then known as Eugene.
Cue Walt's mind movie saluting teen flicks of the millennium, and kudos to the artiste, who choreographed that perfect "Can't Hardly Wait"-style letter-pass sequence — only switch out the letter for a pure, heartfelt mix CD made by a Stanford-bound Aniq for Zoe, including her favorite bop, "Angel" by Shaggy. But his attempts are foiled by a jilted Xavier and emo-haired Brett, clad, appropriately, in loud, douche-y skater gear influenced by, yes, Ed Hardy (top).
"The time of velour jumpsuits, Britney and K-Fed, and... uh... I started making honey that year as a hobby," intones a shaggy-haired, teenage Walt in his voiceover narration.
Field's "Clue"-inspired costumes also take a trip back to questionable, mid-2000s style that high schoolers of yesteryear embraced (and that the Zoomers of today are rediscovering on resale sites).
Obviously, the cool clique — Chelsea in pink and the still-gossipy Jennifers One (Tiya Sircar) and Two (Ayden Mayeri) in citrus tones — would go in hard on the Juicy Couture.
"There are Juicy T-shirts, Juicy purses and backpacks, Juicy jewelry and a complete sweatsuit," says Field, who hunted down the now-in-demand sets on Poshmark. ("Oh, it's expensive.") Jen One (below) flexes with a silver puffy heart necklace, with the recognizable crown logo, a varsity T-shirt, a the full tracksuit and a top-handle purse — and all matching, obvi.
Like Chelsea's jeans at school, Zoe's denim skirt features colorful floral embroidery — "like it's so bad, it's so good," laughs Field, who added an edgy, arty feel to RISD-bound Zoe's red outfit with a hoodie and burgundy Doc Martens.
Walt's St. Patty's Day bash is also when a nervous, over-eager Eugene tries to reinvent himself with his "cooler"-sounding middle name. (The vanity plates on his shiny new Mazda Miata from dad read: "Xavier#1,") That includes a boyband-inspired makeover: His brown floppy bangs have transformed into a mushroom-cut with the tips dyed — not bleached — "chardonnay," as he keeps correcting everyone. Xavier crosses over into mainstream sounds, outside of ska, and dresses the part, much to Yasper's dismay.
"Pop is just a fad, dude. Ska is forever. And look at how you're dressed! You're pop, from top to bottom," says Yasper, deriding Xavier, who proudly debuts a faux-fur-trimmed white puffy vest coat with sweatshirt sleeves — and not one, but two very prominent Aeropostale logos (above).
"Oh my god, when I found that, I was like, 'You got to be kidding me right now,'" laughs Field. "I felt like I struck gold, and Dave was so into it."
Foreshadowing Xavier's future success, Field looked to an iconic music-meets-fashion moment of the early-millennium: "Britney [Spears] and Justin [Timberlake] on the red carpet — and all the denim. I was like, 'That's gotta be Xavier.'"
Underneath his very extra Aeropostale puffer, Xavier pairs a denim button-down shirt with cargo jeans, a relic of the era. "Do those even exist anymore? Then, he wears blue lug boots," says Field, while pointing out that Xavier is the only Hilmount High alum who doesn't follow the show's costume color-coding. "Because he became a completely different person. He went from being Eugene in 2006 to being Xavier in present time."
For the top-charting pop sensation and star of the live-action "Hungry Hungry Hippos" franchise, only superlative celebrity inspiration would do for Xavier's current-day color aesthetic. Field researched "what the cool kids were doing" and landed on "the Justin Bieber of it all, with the purple," she says.
Field poured over red carpet images of music stars to determine the suit-with-no-shirt motif, also decorated with chunky chains. After fitting around eight purple suits on Franco, the two decided on the embossed brocade tuxedo silhouette (above).
"I just have to say, I found that on amazon.com — and he literally looks like a million dollars," says Field.
Fitting the script, she also sourced the ridiculous purple leather cap found underneath Xavier's cold, dead body. In episode two, Xavier, trying to hook up with Zoe, dons the cap jauntily askew, so his now-professionally-bleached tips peek out at the crown of his head, just so.
"It was Margiela," says Field. "I was 'Oh, dude, this is so good.' It was the epitome of: 'I'm trying to be this rock star.'"
In fact, Franco enjoyed the designer accessory so much, he worked references into his improvised dialogue. When Brett interrupts his ex and Xavier, he mocks the "cool, new hat," plucks it off Xavier's head and tosses it over the balcony.
"Dude, what the hell? Dude, that was a bullshit, overpriced hat that looks stupid, man!" scream-whines Xavier, as I laugh every time I watch it.
"All these actors, not only are they fun and great and good looking and all the things, but they're so into their clothes and just on board with the costume ideas," says Field. "They would really riff."